1 June 2008


Don't buy Piero Marini's book A Challenging Reform in which the former papal Master of Ceremonies justifies the postConciliar 'reforms' perpetrated after Vatican II by his cronies and heroes. It is at least a venial sin to to contribute to the royalties of charlatans. The book is also extremely boring, despite the puff given to it by another iffy individual, Bubbles Stancliffe, to his pals 'Bishop of Salisbury' (' reads more like a detective thriller, and keeps us on the edge of our seats').

My language may seem strong, so let me justify myself. Marini's theme, from which he never diverges by a millimetre (for such 'liturgists', there are no greys to spoil the beauty of their blacks and whites), is how goodies pushed through 'reforms' in the face of resistence from baddies who did their best to prevent the implementation of 'what the Council wanted'. Quite where all these baddies came from is unclear. The Council's document on the Liturgy was finally approved by 2,147 votes in favour and 4 against. (Among those who voted in favour were Archbishop Lefebvre and other 'reactionaries' who, unaccountably, must have failed to realise the astoundingly innovatory nature of what they were voting for).

The secret of Marini's sleight of hand is to confuse two fundamentally distinct things: what the Council did mandate; and what Marini's chums forced through without sanction from the Council. We must indeed acknowledge examples of changes made by the 'reform' which do in fact relate to the Council's instructions. The Council did mandate that a wider diet of Scripture should be put before the faithful in the Mass. (Mind you, I doubt if most of the Fathers realised that this would be taken to mean a complete abolition of the ancient lectionary system. The initial reaction of the Church of England to the same liturgical impulses was simply to add Old Testament readings to the existing system. But let's give the 'reformers' the benefit of the doubt.) So the Three Year Lectionary can claim Conciliar mandate. Or take the Breviary hymns. The Council did say that other hymns from the Church's lyric treasury should be added. So the hymns in the postConciliar Liturgy of the Hours can claim Conciliar mandate. (Mind you, I doubt if most of the Fathers realised that this would mean the addition of a very large number of new compositions and the abandonment of saying any of the ancient hymns at all by the great bulk of the Catholic clergy who, despite the Council's wish that Latin should be preserved, were persuaded to to adopt vernacular Office Books).

But what about the proliferation of alternative Eucharistic Prayers in the period after the Coucil? This is completey absent from the Conciliar shopping list. Only a few years before the Council, an Anglo-Catholic writer, Dudley Symon, had written of the Canon Romanus, the immemorially ancient Eucharistic Prayer of the Roman Church, This was the Prayer that S Augustine brought with him to England in AD 597 and which for a thousand years was familiar to and loved by the English people. It is almost incredible that by a stroke of the pen it was made illegal [in 1549] by State action, though not so strange that revolts were widespread against this piece of tyranny, revolts that could only be stamped out by German mercenaries ... it is most unlikely that [the Roman Rite's] chief glory, the Canon, will be touched or cease to be said in Latin even if elsewhere much more of the vernacular is permitted.

So this move was intensely revolutionary and the Conciliar Fathers had not so much as dreamed of calling for it. Let me quote to you how Slipparini slithers round these facts: The fact that four Eucharistic Prayers were approved was consistent with the early Roman liturgy, which actually had used several anaphoras. One sentence; and a sentence culpably crafted to deceive. It is indeed likely that in Rome, as elsewhere, in the very earliest days of the Church, the Eucharistic Prayer was extemporised (just as there was perhaps a period before the Lord's deeds and words were written down and regarded as 'Scripture'). There is evidence that the text of the Canon evolved through various stages (just as the texts of what became the Gospels may have done). After all, classical liturgy did not come down from heaven ready made and with every i dotted (and neither did the text and canon of Scripture). But to give the impression that the Roman Rite, as soon as we have Latin texts to bear witness to it, was a rite in which alternative anaphoras were used, so that introducing after Vatican II alternative Eucharistic Prayers is 'consistent', is nothing less than a cheap trick.

How nice to take time off from all this unpleasantness to attend the CIEL Tridentine High Mass in the Brompton Oratory and then to hear Dr Alcuin Reid lecturing with clarity, accuracy, and a painstakingly detailed use of sources.

1 comment:

Geoff said...

I've read it argued that the 1965 ordo missae is far closer to what the Council envisioned.